Brazil’s presidential impeachment drama entered its end game on Thursday as a Senate committee met to vote on whether to recommend removing elected president Dilma Rousseff from office.
The vote in the capital Brasilia on the eve the Olympic opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro is non-binding but will send a loud message to the Senate plenary, marking yet another step in what looks increasingly like Rousseff’s political downfall.
The committee is expected to vote overwhelmingly in favor of Rousseff’s ejection on charges that she broke budget laws.
“The president will be removed from office for the extremely serious crimes she committed,” said Senator Cassio Lima of the opposition PSDB party. “It was the biggest fiscal fraud in the country’s history.”
Rousseff is accused of spending money without congressional approval and taking out unauthorized loans from state banks to make the national budget look better than it really was as she campaigned for re-election in 2014.
She says such maneuvers were common practice under previous administrations, and do not amount to an impeachable offense.
Her allies point out that many of the lawmakers accusing her are implicated in corruption cases far more serious than mere accounting shenanigans.
Rousseff, who is refusing to attend the Olympic ceremony because she would be in a “secondary role,” calls the impeachment procedure a coup in disguise.
Her bitter political enemy Michel Temer, who is serving as interim president, will oversee the opening ceremony. If she is removed from office, he will become the full-fledged president until elections in 2018.
On August 9 — a few days into the Olympics that were meant to showcase Brazil’s growing economic power and political stability — the full Senate will vote on whether to proceed with the impeachment trial. A simple majority would suffice and the measure is expected to pass easily.
Then a final and decisive session in the full Senate is scheduled for August 29, a week after the Olympics close, when a two-thirds majority is required to eject Rousseff.